Always going somewhere, never being anywhere: Exploring associations among business travel, work-family conflict, the emotional exhausten component of burnout, and health outcomes
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- Institutt for psykologi 
The purpose of the current thesis was to gain increased knowledge with regard to how business travel associates with conflict between employees’ work and family life, and how these factors again relate to the emotional exhaustion component of burnout and health outcomes. The Job-Demand Resources model and Conservation of Resources Theory were applied as theoretical frameworks. The studies in this thesis were conducted in a large Norwegian oil and gas company. Measurement related to business travel was derived from company specific register data. Further, it was distinguished between business travel frequency, referring to the number of overnight stays, and business travel pattern, referring to the type of travel. Self-reports questionnaires were applied to measure the remaining variables. With regard to health outcomes, three aspects of subjective health were examined: Psychological health complaints, musculoskeletal pain and gastrointestinal problems. Four aims were defined to guide the conducted work: 1) Examine associations between business travel frequency, workfamily conflict, emotional exhaustion and employee’s psychological health complaints. 2) Investigate the association of job resources related to business travel frequency with work-family conflict and emotional exhaustion. 3) Study whether levels of workfamily conflict and emotional exhaustion differ according to business travel pattern. 4) Examine how associations among work-family conflict and the emotional exhaustion component of burnout are related to, musculoskeletal pain and gastrointestinal problems, and whether the same associations differ according to business travel pattern. The thesis consisted of two cross-sectional studies (paper 1 and paper 2), and one longitudinal study (paper 3). Results revealed that business travel frequency and control over travel explained a significant portion of the variance in work-family conflict, but not in emotional exhaustion. However, work-family conflict was found to be a mediator in the business travel frequency – emotional exhaustion relationship. In the longitudinal study normal cross-lagged effects, reversed cross-lagged effects and reciprocal effects were demonstrated between the study variables. Specifically, normal cross-lagged effects were revealed between business travel frequency and work-family conflict. In addition, work-family conflict predicted emotional exhaustion over time and emotional exhaustion predicted psychological health over time. Further, reversed cross-lagged effects were demonstrated between psychological health complaints measured at Time 1 and emotional exhaustion measured at Time 2, and between emotional exhaustion measured at Time 1 and work-family conflict measured at Time 2. Finally, reciprocal cross-lagged effects were also present, indicating that employees who travel for business experience higher work-family conflict that leads to emotional exhaustion and psychological health complaints. The presence of psychological health complaints gives rise to even more emotional exhaustion, which again gives rise to more workfamily conflict, resulting in what in Conservation of Resources theory is referred to as loss spirals. With regard to business travel pattern, three travel groups were identified: commuters, national travelers, and international travelers. Significant differences in work-family conflict, but not in emotional exhaustion, were identified among all three groups, where commuters turned out to experience the highest degree of work-family conflict. Results demonstrated that emotional exhaustion was positively related to musculoskeletal pain and gastrointestinal problems. However, contrary to expectations work-family conflict was not directly associated with musculoskeletal pain or gastrointestinal problems. The associations showed a similar pattern for commuters, national travelers, and international travelers. Still, the association between emotional exhaustion and musculoskeletal pain proved to be significantly stronger for the commuter group compared to the national and international travel group. This finding indicates that commuters who experience emotional exhaustion are more prone to musculoskeletal pain compared to other business travelers.